It's a simple idea – digitise the results of microscopy and accelerate the healthcare process. One university hospital researcher decided to turn the idea into reality.
Your tissue samples are in the email
Pathology – the search for abnormal variations in human tissues and organs – reduces diseases to tiny tissue samples. These tissue samples are prepared in a laboratory for visual investigation with a traditional microscope. In any large hospital within a short time thousands of tissue samples accumulate which have to be sent out physically to pathologists and which have to be archived afterwards.
There must be another way, thought Kai Saeger, CEO of VMscope, a spin-off company created at Europe's largest university hospital, the Charité in Berlin. “Being a spin-off of the hospital and university, we had the advantage of being at the forefront of research and development, so we could go to market with products very quickly,” says Kai Saeger.
The magic key is ‘Virtual Microscopy': instead of purely analysing tissue samples with a microscope, the tissue samples are being scanned into digital images. VMscope's software system then helps the digital tissue samples to be provided along with the patient's data, so the pathologist is able to diagnose.
“We make sure everything the pathologist needs to do their job – the patient's data and, in the end, the entire hospital information system – is connected with the virtual samples via one access point,” says Saeger.
The advantages are enormous: pathologists are now able to share information with other peers located remotely to consult on difficult cases and to accelerate the diagnosis of diseases. The images are sent over the Internet rather than via time-consuming postal mail. “Virtual Microscopy helps a lot in consulting with peers based on shared digital information,” confirms Thomas Schrader from VMscope. In addition, once the tissue samples are held digitally, researchers can use digital image analysis tools in further diagnosis and to complement the visual analysis.
The opportunities for more advanced education are also a major advantage: more students and fewer resources make life a challenge for histology educators. In response, universities are increasingly using digital microscopy, either to complement or to replace traditional microscopy-based practical tutorials. Now, however, VMscope enables online histology labs to be set up. Developed with leading academic institutes, it is the only solution created by educators, for educators.
Practical lessons for students can now be run by a single faculty member, with students completing coursework faster than when using microscopes. Since switching to VMscope's software, student satisfaction has improved and they really appreciate and benefit from having access to slides outside of the laboratory.
Established in late 2004, VMscope is today one of Europe's leaders in this field. Together with other innovation initiatives, Microsoft supports new and young entrepreneurs such as VMscope in the high-tech domain – an initiative which seems urgently needed in order to create economic growth and jobs from the ideas of young researchers.